Australian captain Steve Smith will be out to at least match AB de Villiers with the bat.
Australian captain Steve Smith will be out to at least match AB de Villiers with the bat.

Battle of the bats: Smith must rise to challenge

STEVE Smith is confident he can reconjure his Ashes magic and rise the challenge laid down by AB de Villiers.

If Australia can't get the mercurial de Villiers out, they at least need a batsman to match him after two Test matches without a single century-maker.

Smith feels a rejuvenated figure in the nets this week as he prepares for the Newlands showdown against one of his main rivals for the mantle of batsman of his generation.

Spearhead Mitchell Starc (calf) and all-rounder Mitchell Marsh (groin) both carried niggling injuries into the week but both are expected to play after a rigorous hit out on Tuesday.

In a series dominated by two world class bowling attacks, de Villiers run-making has been the difference between the two sides.

Australia desperately need one of their big batting guns to fire against Kagiso Rabada, and Smith is trusting that the mental powers which yielded him three tons against England will return in Cape Town with the series on the line at 1-1.

AB de Villiers has been in strong touch for South Africa this series.
AB de Villiers has been in strong touch for South Africa this series.

"I feel really good. My hit (yesterday) was the best for six months. It's probably been the opposite throughout the summer," said Smith.

"I didn't feel (in the Ashes) I was hitting the ball that well but my mind was in a good place.

"Maybe now my mind is not in as good a space as it was but I feel now I am hitting the ball batter.

"It's nice to mix and match between the two, but if I get the two in the right place together then hopefully it will mean some big runs."

Smith has fallen victim to South Africa's left-arm spinners on a couple of occasions this series and after making strong starts, has failed to go on with the job like he did in the Ashes and against India last year.

South Africa’s AB de Villiers celebrates his century in the second Test in Port Elizabeth.
South Africa’s AB de Villiers celebrates his century in the second Test in Port Elizabeth.

The Australian captain said he wouldn't premeditate any changes to his approach out in the middle and will trust his instincts to just read the situation of the match.

"I don't know. I will tell you after the game. You play the way you feel and all that out in the middle," he said.

"I'm feeling good and fresh after a week's break between training, and I'm in a good place.

"I've had a bit of success here (in Cape Town) without scoring a hundred.

"I scored a few runs here last time. Hopefully I can make a big impact in this game."

Smith was eager to see how Starc and Marsh pulled up before finalising his XI but said there is next to no doubt that the key pair would play.

Starc is a lingering concern given the workload he has endured as the go-to fast bowler over the course of a long summer.

Australia will be desperately hoping Starc can back up for one final effort for the fourth Test in Johannesburg, with the left-armer's influence in the attack almost irreplaceable as evidenced on Boxing Day when his absence left a giant hole.



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